Throwing Shade

4 Apr

I’m going to start today’s review with a confession. Well, part confession, part memory. A confessory, if you will.

When I was a kid—I’m going to guess around age 10—we had a VHS recording of Mr. Mom, the (still completely awesome) Michael Keaton movie about a dude who loses his job and has to stay at home and take care of the kids. So controversial, that film! Men staying home? Women working!?

Anyway, for whatever reason, I watched Mr. Mom with some regularity, and in it there’s a scene where a cadre of local housewives take Michael Keaton with them to a Chippendale club, to see some male strippers. In the beginning of that scene, ominous music plays while distinctly 1980s-looking guys in astronaut costumes come on stage and slowly reveal their naked selves. And by naked I mean in underwear and space boots. 

Being fairly young at the time, but old enough to be interested in boys, I would rewind and rewatch that scene a lot. Not because I felt particularly attracted to 30-something blondes with abs and professional hip-gyrating skills, but because it was a glimpse into the wide world of sex, about which I knew absolutely nothing except that it was something older people did and I could aspire to be involved with one day. Honestly, up until about eighth grade—at which time I managed to have a boyfriend for one whole week—my interactions with boys generally fell on a spectrum between indifference and cruelty (I still have an incredibly vivid memory of one little shithead on the school bus turning around to me one day and saying, “So you know you’re fat, right?”) Flirting—even the schoolyard teasing that passes for flirting up until about age 25—was not in my repertoire, and so the idea of being in some sort of intimate scenario with another person was about as fathomable to me as, I don’t know, being able to fly. I mean, I was watching Mr. Mom for the stripping scene. That alone should tell you how clueless I was.

Anyway, I bring this up because this week I basically reenacted my astronaut stripper experience with books. Three books, to be exact. Yes, I read three entire books in less than five days—Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, which comprise the “Fifty Shades” trilogy written by E L James. The books, which are wildly popular (I feel compelled to point out), are about a young college student who meets and falls in love with a high-powered executive with a tragic past and, consequently, rather sordid sexual proclivities. The books are novels, like they have plots and everything, but they are without question erotica, and filled—literally filled—with detailed sex scenes. They are atrociously written, and fairly compelling. I am embarrassed to have spent that much of my life on something so stupid, but I’ve also been telling every woman I know to read them, too.

I’m no longer 10 years old, and my experiences with intimacy obviously now extend beyond male strippers in 1980s family movies, but for all intents and purposes, the Fifty Shades trilogy brought me back to that Mr. Mom feeling, of being on the outside of something simultaneously appealing and terrifying. It took me a good 24 hours after finishing the final book to snap out of it, which is really the hallmark of this brand of fiction—Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc. Granted, Fifty Shades could have been written by my elementary-school self in terms of style and sophistication, but it was still that kind of page-turning lunacy that has you up until 4 a.m. because you swear just one more chapter and then you wake up the next morning in your neglected apartment and remember that the world isn’t actually full of beautiful vampire men or sympathetic rich people. No, actually, you just need to put down your book, get out of bed and do some vacuuming.

So if you can tolerate awful writing, and the shame that comes with devoting nearly 1,000 pages of your life to what is essentially written pornography, go for Fifty Shades. Who cares? Why not? But if you’re too good for all that, if you’re one of those people that read half of Twilight and then had to put it down because it was “just so bad,” avoid these books like the plague. In part because you won’t enjoy them and in part because I don’t want you to understand how embarrassing it is that I did.

Even though I enjoyed these books, I have to give them one papercut. To do otherwise would be like a restaurant critic giving four stars to McDonald’s.

THE FACTS: 
———————————————————————-
TITLE: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed
———————————————————————-
AUTHOR: E L James
———————————————————————-
PAGES: No idea, I Kindled them
———————————————————————-
ALSO WROTE: n/a
———————————————————————-
SORTA LIKE: X-rated Twilight
———————————————————————
FIRST LINE: “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.”

11 Responses to “Throwing Shade”

  1. Anonymous April 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I still have a copy of that movie I believe- it’s even on DVD!

  2. seitengeraschel June 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    I read the first two novels and “X-rated Twilight” sums them up perfectly. Horrible writing, a plot that isn’t even worth being called “a plot” and still I know I’ll read the third book too.

  3. Phoebe June 29, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Hi, I’m Phoebe and I’m from London. Amazing blog, I’m an aspiring book blogger and have just published my first few reviews, and I’d love for you to check me out!!

  4. Priyanka Kaushal January 6, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Hilarious and so true 🙂 I just read the first book and kind of felt like a teenager reading it. I did become repetitive in the middle though. Now, whenever I read / hear anyone say “Oh My” my mind just takes me to Fifty Shades haha!

  5. emilybui February 18, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

    I totally agree! I have started “Fifty Shades of Grey” and although I am not sure how I feel about it, the lust between Anastasia and Christian makes me feel compelled to keep reading. It is slightly embarrassing since everyone knows that it is basically a book filled with detail sex scenes, but I am not willing to let go of reading it yet. Don’t feel embarrassed—I am with you!!!

  6. Sgranocchiatrice di pagine April 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    I am abs in love with your review! We have a lot in common 🙂 I am clappin’ my hands for you! Standing ovation my dear! 🙂 Elena

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Naples-Gazing « Sorry Television - July 30, 2012

    […] As with Never Let Me Go, EPL moved to the top of my pile once HBO started playing the movie, although I’m not entirely sure why I hadn’t gotten around to it sooner. Sure, the book gives off a generally annoying self-help vibe—I left The Strand’s $1 price sticker on the front of mine all week, lest anyone think I’d paid full price for the thing—but there was a time when you couldn’t sit through a subway ride without seeing at least one person reading the memoir. That alone is usually enough to pique my interest (see: Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 50 Shades of Grey.) […]

  2. Quiz Results: Shame By Books « Sorry Television - August 3, 2012

    […] In my own review of 50 Shades, I give the book one papercut, because rating it any higher would be like giving McDonald’s four stars (I also admitted to being obsessed with the male stripping scene in Mr. Mom, but that’s neither here nor there.) Still, if 50 Shades is McDonald’s, its nonfiction poll contenders are Cosi, or one of those places selling “salads” with bacon-flavored croutons and zillion-calorie dressing. Both are wildly unhealthy; one’s just upfront about it. […]

  3. My [Personal] Top 10 Books of 2012 « Sorry Television - December 27, 2012

    […] books (52.3 if I’m being honest about Les Mis, 58.3 if I count the Gone series and all three FSOG books). A productive year […]

  4. Beers, books and a dramatic reading of Fifty Shades of Grey | Sorry Television - February 27, 2013

    […] neither here nor there). Most importantly, one daring soul brought an actual paperback version of Fifty Shades of Grey—compete with 20% off Target sticker, if memory serves—and so after a few alcoholic beverages, […]

  5. Kira’s #CBR5 Review #26: The Hive, by Gill Hornby | Cannonball Read V - June 26, 2013

    […] Fifty Shades of Grey to the top of the NYT bestseller list. (I say this judgily, but I actually read all three FSOG books). And to some degree, The Hive very much is that book. It’s about petty arguments […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: